Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Review: Cutting Down a Genre and a Culture

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Popstar‘s greatest achievement is it’s insane joke per minute ratio and just how many of those jokes are actually worth laughing at. The comedy from The Lonely Island (the comedy group responsible for “I’m on a Boat” and SNL‘s “Dick in a Box”) slaps a grin on your face very early and doesn’t let it leave until the credits are finished. Between the Christopher Guest-style comedy, Andy Samberg’s delightfully dopey lead, and the brutally accurate satire of the music industry as it stands, this is the first great comedy of the year with mass appeal.

Borrowing the formula of This is Spinal Tap, Popstar has a fake documentary crew follow Conner, a.k.a. Conner4real (Samberg), as he prepares to release a solo album without the help of his former boy band mates (Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, also serving as co-directors and co-writers, the latter duty also shared with Samberg). But without his chief writer and producer, Conner releases an offensive song proclaiming his heterosexuality through stereotypes while trying to make an anthem for gay marriage. Some other gems include a song that uses Osama bin Laden’s capture as a metaphor for sex and another declaring that the Mona Lisa is overrated. His album tanks like the uninspired trash it is (yet the songs are catchy and funny enough that you’ll be searching Spotify for them soon after).

The comedy comes out of the writers’ sheer knowledge of the music industry as it currently stands and their ability to heighten the situations just enough that it’s ridiculous but recognizable. It helps that Samberg is much more game to be a leading man here than he was in Hot Rod. His confident screen presence and pitch perfect, deadpan comedic timing push him to the level of comedic genius he’s only previously hinted at.

That’s not to say Popstar is the smartest comedy around. A lot of its humor is what many would call silly and occasionally random, which would be a criticism if you could stop your stomach from seizing in aching laughter. If you’re like me and can’t, all the better.

As a parody of a documentaries like the ones made for Justin Bieber or Katy Perry (the former’s not so differently subtitled Never Say Never), the film also somehow got just about everyone in the music business to deliver deadpan praise for Conner’s obviously terrible music. The authenticity of Conner4real is hilarious, from the insane product tie-ins to his way too intimate uses of social media. Popstar is very much of the zeitgeist but also funny enough to live past it, much like This is Spinal Tap.

For that reason, it’s hard to call Popstar anything but an up-and-coming comedy classic. Samberg’s infectious, self-aware grin ought to win over those blissfully ignorant to modern pop music. But for those in the know, the genre is wonderfully ripped to shreds here. Popstar never stops with what it does best, and you really won’t want it to. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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